Lake Turkana is under threat

January 20, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 21 – The livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans around the world\\\’s largest desert lake will be wrecked by an Ethiopian dam on the lake\\\’s main tributary, conservationists have said.

"The Ethiopian dam project is going to bring nothing but tragedy and harm to Kenya," warned renowned archeologist and environmentalist Richard Leakey.

The Gilgel Gibe III dam being built on the Omo river, which supplies 80 percent of the water in Lake Turkana on the Kenya-Ethiopia border, is one-third complete.

During the two years it will take to fill the dam Lake Turkana will recede, increasing its salinity, damaging the local economy, degrading biodiversity and increasing the risk of cross-border conflicts, the Friends of Lake Turkana conservationist organisation said.

The group called for construction to be halted pending an assessment by Kenya, which has said it will import power generated from Ethiopia, on the impact the dam will have on the locals and the environment.

"What we are asking the Kenya government is to reassess, to rethink about what they are doing before it\\\’s too late," said Samia Bwana, a top official of the Kenyan group.

Around 300,000 fishermen and herders depend on Lake Turkana, while hundreds of thousands more, mainly farmers, rely on the Omo\\\’s annual flooding for river bank cultivation and grazing of livestock.

"We are depending on a country that is known for drought, known for rainfall failure, to provide expensive power to Kenya," Leakey told reporters.

"There is no future for hydroelectric schemes in arid parts of Africa."

Ironically, Kenya plans to build Africa\\\’s biggest wind farm around Lake Turkana, which is expected to produce 300 MW. The Omo dam is projected to have a capacity of 400 MW when it is completed in 2013.

Leakey said the feasibility study for the Ethiopian dam was "so badly done that the dam may never even fill up because of cracks that are already known to exist."

"If it never fills up they will never let the water out and if they never let the water out, Lake Turkana will not only drop some metres it…" will be wiped out, he added with a gesture of despair.


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